The most important element to an agency’s long-term growth and success is the culture that exists within the business. Vendors and landlords have a sense for it. They may have difficulty describing it, but it is often the deciding factor when it comes to winning a close-fought listing presentation.
Every great office has a great culture, which over time becomes the foundation stone on which the future success of the business is built.
Culture is a unique element in an agency, because it is something that must grow and establish itself; it cannot be bought. You won’t find it on eBay, you can’t order it from Amazon and you can’t buy it from a trade stand at AREC. Culture is developed over time and tells your customers and clients more about your agency than RateMyAgent ever will.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes culture best: “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterises an institution or organisation.”
You will know when your agency’s culture is right by the way the team interact and support each other.
It is also evidenced by the openness and trust that they all share with each other and in particular to the business owner. In a crisis, it’s ‘all hands to the pumps’ instead of ‘let’s head for the hills’.
A great culture is of benefit to an agency, particularly in retention and recruitment. When we spoke with our clients prior to the Christmas break, several commented on the increasing number of approaches that were being made to their teams in an effort to lure them across to competing agencies. Nothing new here; it’s been occurring since the year dot and will continue into the future. But the important thing is that the team members were telling the business owners. They were open and honest about the approaches being made, not disappearing from the office to do ‘letterbox drops’ and instead having clandestine meetings in coffee shops with headhunters and principals.
Once you get the culture right, it can make your agency almost bullet-proof when it comes to the headhunters.
If you approach an agent you’re targeting to meet for a coffee, they may reply in one of three ways.
Firstly, ‘Yes; when and where?’ which usually means they are ready to jump. The second response is ‘Well, I’m not thinking of moving but it doesn’t hurt to talk.’ This answer normally reflects that they are thinking of moving but want to be ‘courted’. Although they may not be moving in the short term, they want to identify which lifeboat is available if they need it. The final reply is along the lines of, ‘I’m flattered that you rang but I’m staying where I am, thanks.’ This reply says they are in an office with a great culture.
Over the years we’ve learned that people leave an office because they are not happy. It is rarely about the money; the reason is often because they feel that they are not being treated fairly or an incident has allowed mistrust to develop and has put a ‘crack in the plate’.
When you have a great culture within your office, your competitors know about it. There are some fantastic but unhappy people sitting in agencies across the country, just waiting for the opportunity to join the right team where they will be appreciated, nurtured and supported.
You need to be the lifeboat that most of these salespeople, property managers and admin staff secretly want to climb aboard. When you advertise for new team members you will have a larger pool of more qualified people to select from. Everybody wants to be part of a great culture – and why wouldn’t they?
The beautiful thing about having your own business is that you get to define and develop the culture within the team. It takes time and won’t happen overnight. Remember to always select new team members who can add to your culture, not necessarily your gross commission; if the culture is right the commissions will look after themselves. It may take time, but the success and longevity of your agency depend on it.